They examined, smelled and carefully tasted the contents of each glass before them, some giving a confident nod as they wrote down their answers, others looking slightly more perplexed …
SAB’s Media Taste-Off competition was revived in 2015 after years of dormancy, with the exciting grand finale taking place at the SAB World of Beer on 26 February between five media houses from across the country.
Members of the Daily Sun, Lowveld Media, Kasie FM, Vuma FM and the SABC team from Port Elizabeth went head-to-head, pitting their beer-tasting prowess against each other in the hard-fought and hugely entertaining finals.
Beer tasting is no easy business, and in the end only one team could wear the winner’s crown. That honour went to Lowveld Media, who bested their second- and third-place rivals, Kasie FM and the Daily Sun respectively.
Teams blind-tasted five different SAB beers, carefully considering each before submitting their answers to the judges. Fortunately, each team had a designated SAB trade brewer to help guide them along the way.
Lowveld Media’s Mark Kinnear, Mireille de Villiers and Justus Page were elated with their win.
“It was a wonderful evening,” said De Villiers. “The highlight was not only being crowned champions (luckily without having to enter into a nerve-racking taste-off), but also having the opportunity to learn more about the art of tasting from the masters.
“We probably learned more about beer in the past month than in all the years we’ve enjoyed the product! A big thank you to the organisers for making the night such a memorable experience.”
Lowveld Media won the grand prize of a trip on the SAB Heritage Tour – a fun, historical trip of South African beer culture worth R20 000 each.
Ahead of the official taste-off, teams were treated to a beer-tasting masterclass presented by SAB’s sensory manager, Danie Odendaal, which gave them the tools to identify off flavours in beer – like brew that may have been exposed to sunlight or has expired – and taught them what flavour notes to look out for in signature SAB beers like Carling Black Label.
SAB chief brewer Martin Brooks outlined the importance of tasting to everyone at SAB, describing it as crucial to their daily operations.
“We do end-to-end tasting in the brewing process, meaning we taste the beer every step of the way, right up until it’s in the bright beer tanks and ready for distribution,” he explained.
“More importantly, our ingredients are also extensively tasted. When we put our products into trade, we make sure that each beer is perfect – consistent to the taste profile of that particular brand.
“For us, tasting is a language. SAB has been brewing for 120 years, and we now brew 27-billion litres of beer in over 60 countries around the world.
“There are different people, cultures and languages in this equation, and the one thing that tasting actually does for us, is it pulls us together – we all describe the hundreds of different beers that SAB produces in the same way; it’s like a universal language.”
World of Beer general manager Tony Rubin applauded a hugely successful evening.
“It was an honour for us to host the SAB Media Taste-Off finals here at the World of Beer. From here, we need to look at growing the competition and holding it on a regular basis,” he said.